Thursday, February 22, 2018

Changing your kids behavior starts with better nutrition

 How many times have we heard that saying "you are what you eat"?  I know it's exhausting, but I have found over the last decade that it could not be more true.  This discovery came first with my own health, then watching my son slowly recovering from autism over time.  And it wasn't until my daughter that the phrase took a deeper meaning.  

You see with my daughter I was so hell bent on preventing autism that nutrition became my weapon to combat chronic illness.  I started using it years before I got pregnant with her, while I was cleaning out my body preconception.  Then I developed an even deeper relationship with nutrition during my pregnancy, which continued after she was born.

Nutrition became the antidote when I battled through her leaky gut, food allergies and eczema.  All her classmates mom could not understand the connection from food to her eczema.  They were all happy just to slather on the steroid cream that would not continue working once you stopped using it and never got to the route of the problem.  It also had the lovely side effect of thinning the skin.  I chose to go a different route.

I diligently gave her nutritional supplements and paid extremely close attention to what she ate.  The pleasant side effect I got from all this paid off handsomely with much better overall behavior and less out of control emotions.  This revelation cinched the deal, I had discovered something better then our endless talks and punishment.  I was hooked on using nutrition to control behavior and emotions.  

There are times when I loosen the reigns and allow her more junk or processed food if it's a holiday or a special celebration.  It may be hard to believe but I notice the difference quite quickly.  The same goes for my son.  It's different with him, since he has autism.  The work is harder and more uphill but like with her it needs to be carried out each day.  Here are some simple tips that I live by:

1.     If your kids are acting out badly then by all means take an accounting of how they have been eating lately and by all means MAKE SOME SWIFT CHANGES!  Take out the processed food, sugar and heavy load of carbs.  

2.     Make sure your children are eating fresh fruits and vegetables at a minimum of 2 x's a day.  If they won't do it then you may consider taking away something they like or want to get then to eat the desired food.  You have to use the method that works for you.  I personally started with bribery.  But if they are older then try to talk to them about the way food will make them feel.

3.     Give them a probiotic or fermented food every day as insurance for their gut.

4.      Feed them as much organic produce as possible.  The pesticides and chemicals used to treat the food can really interfere with brain function.  

5.      Consider using nutritional supplements to help get their brain back on track if behavior is starting to become a more constant problem.  Some good basic supplements are fish oil, Vitamin D3, multivitamin and probiotic.  Some others I use are 5-MTHF (folate), B12, B complex, and magnesium as these can help calm the nervous system.  It is always good to work with a qualified practitioner who can advise you on which supplements might be good to take and specific dosages.  I also use a lot of herbal supplements that are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory as well as Vitamin C, A and E.

5.     If their emotions are getting in the way of day to day functioning or activities then consider bringing them to a functional medicine doctor or nutritionist who can do specialized testing to help create an individualized protocol that can help you target making some bigger changes that may need to be made.

Sometimes negative behavior is of course just about being a kid, but other times it can be about nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, sub-par food that feeds the bad bacteria in our guts, processed food with too many chemicals and preservatives that get in the way of us feeling good and thinking clearly.

There is no down side to improving nutrition to see if it makes a difference in your child's behavior. So why not give it a try!

You can find more information on preventing chronic illness in children with Dara Berger's new book: HOW TO PREVENT AUTISM.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


By Dara Berger


It's always best to start healthy habits as early as possible, so they are already incorporated into your child's life from early on.  This way it is something they always remember doing.  You know the saying that it's "hard to teach an old dog new tricks".  Kids don't love change especially to their eating habits.  But remember they are much more adaptable then adults and can be "trained" or "bribed" in my daughter's case!

I have had to work very hard to change over my son's eating habits and really didn't feel like I had a choice.  You see he has autism and I learned that a big part of his recovery would be eating super healthy to get his Microbiome (balance of good and bad bacteria in his gut) back on track.  Remember this isn't just for autism but must be done for almost any chronic illness.  We have known for some time that 70% of the immune system is in the gut which many practitioners refer to it as our second brain.

It was a long tough road to changing my son's dietary habits as he was used to the SAD (Standard American Diet) full of pizza and bagels.  With my daughter I started much earlier, so eating healthy is all she has ever known.  The complicated issue with her has been noticing and complaining about what her friends get to eat.  I constantly have to point out how many of the kids in her class are very unhealthy with anaphylactic food allergies or inhalers for asthma.

The one thing that was on my side with my son is he would pretty much take anything I would give him.  He had issues with food textures and everything had to be crunchy.  I used this to my advantage by starting to give him celery, cucumber and raw beets cut up.  Next I would serve him a teaspoon of fermented beet kvass or pickle rind.  When he gets home from school I give him a salad with raw crunchy lettuce and radishes.  Over time I have been able to cook brussell sprouts, broccoli, and carrots starting with making them al dente.  Now he eats them any way I serve them.  It greatly helps if a child witnesses their parents eat these healthy items.  My son also has PANDAS, which I try also to use to my advantage.  Once I introduce something it becomes part of his routine and then he has to have it each day.  So I started giving him a glass of green juice twice a day.  He gulps it down quite quickly and will even get upset if we don't have time to make it on a particular day.

Now with my typical daughter it is different and in some ways more complicated.  The same tactics I use with my son would NEVER work with her!  At first, I had to bribe her using the picky eater technique of saying "take one bite of this" or you can't have "that".  It took a few days as she is stubborn.  But I stayed the course and eventually prevailed.  As she got a little bit older getting her involved worked.  She wanted to be the one to make the salad and be in control.  I of course didn't care as I just wanted her to eat the vegetables.  So I gave her a cutting board and a butter knife and off she went to make her salad at 3 years old.  And at 7 1/2 she still makes her own when she comes home from school.  My daughter likes to eat cooked vegetable but gets tired easily so it forces me to rotate them more often.  This is a good practice to do anyway.  Luckily my fridge is constantly full with an insane amount of vegetables, so it is no problem.  I try to let them choose what they are eating each day, so that they feel more involved and in control and less apt to be resistant.

Here is a list of vegetables that I make for them.  I will give them to you in order of preference with the ones they enjoy eating the most at the top.  Hopefully this will inspire you to branch out and make something new for your family.  And remember don't be let down if they don't like it on the very first try.  Keep making the ones that you enjoy, so they witness your healthy eating habits!

Vegetables my kids enjoy:

1.      Brussel Sprouts baked in the oven with coconut oil and sea salt (I cut them in half to cook quicker and also add fresh garlic for flavor).

2.      Baked Kale cut up in pieces drizzled with oil and salt.  The kids love this healthy crunchy chip.

3.      Sweet Potatoes cut up in small pieces baked with coconut oil and sea salt.  You can slice them like a thick potato chip too.  I also make purple potatoes the same way.

4.     Carrots cut up and sauteed with oil, salt and touch of maple syrup.

5.     Steam green beans and broccoli or saute with garlic and salt depending on what type of texture your child prefers.

6.     Beets baked in the oven with coconut or palm oil and sea salt.

7.     Parsnips cut up and baked with oil and sea salt.

8.     Cauliflower steamed and put in the food processor with olive oil and salt.  This tastes just like mashed potatoes but much healthier.

9.     Spinach is a great thing to hide in a fruit smoothie if your child doesn't like the texture.  I juice if for my son.

10.   Avocado is tasty mashed up for a baby or put on toast.  However my daughter loves my home made guacamole that I give her cassava root chips to dip into.

11.   Zucchini is a vegetable that I put a lot in a homemade paleo bread that I never feel guilty feeding them.  It makes such a wholesome and satisfying snack.  Both my kids love it!

12.  Green juice is a wonderful way to get a lot of vegetables in your child such as Swiss Chard, Kale, Spinach, Fennel, Parsley and Cilantro.  You can add beets or apple to make if more  for palatable for them.

As you can see the choices are quite plentiful and you will have to perform your own trial and error to see what works best for your kids.  I hope my suggestions above have given you some ideas to play with.  

Remember that your kids will do best modeling your good behavior!  It's also best to get the whole family on board and most of all be patient with your children especially if they are getting rid of some not so great eating habits that they have had up until now.  

You can find more great tips on health prevention and natural living in my new book How to Prevent Autism.

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